SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — This week’s deep freeze has furnaces working extra hard to keep our homes heated against the extreme cold.
But that also means using more fuel, and this cold snap is driving up natural gas prices that are already at historic highs.
“It’s been crazy busy. We’ve had about double the call volume that we’ve normally had,” Comfort Heroes Owner Alan Gentry said.
While HVAC companies like Comfort Heroes are swamped with calls for furnaces breaking down, they’re also seeing an increase in another call for help.
“We’ve had quite a few customers calling to complain that their bill has gone up and they think something might be wrong with their furnace,” Gentry said. “When we get out there we find the furnace is running properly it’s just that the cost of the fuel has gone up.”
Just like the price of gas at the pump can change just about every day, natural gas prices are also incredibly volatile, especially in this incredible cold.
“The natural gas market is so volatile that it changes not only every day, it changes several times a day. It can change on actual use, but it can also change just based on forecasts,” MidAmerican Energy Spokesperson Geoff Greenwood said.
That’s exactly what it’s doing during this week’s cold as the natural gas market took another big jump, on top of the increase customers have already experienced this winter.
“We are purchasing that natural gas that we send to you without a markup, without a profit. What we pay is what we are charged and what we’re paying is a lot higher than what we paid a year ago,” Greenwood said.
“It’s a lot more expensive now, it almost doubled,” Sioux Falls resident Chuck Cinco said.
Customers are noticing the difference in their bills compared to last year when natural gas markets saw historically low prices during the pandemic.
“For South Dakota, residential natural gas bills in December of 2020, the average bill was $55.03. Fast forward a year, the average bill in December of 2021 was $125.39, so that’s a jump of 128 percent. That can vary every month,” Greenwood said.
Natural gas prices have gone from historic lows to near historic highs in just one year.
“They’re the highest they’ve been since the 2008 winter heating season,” Greenwood said.
And they’re expected to keep going up this month.
“Ya, love it. Can’t wait for that next bill,” Cinco said.
But no matter how high prices climb, customers say they really have no other option than heating their homes.
“I could wear more clothes I guess. I usually just leave it [the thermostat] where it’s at,” Cinco said.
While people may be keeping on the heat, many are trying everything they can to make their homes more efficient.
“We’ve had some customers that we put in humidifiers for, they notice that if they run the humidity up a little bit higher in the house, they actually don’t have to keep the heat set as high in the house,” Gentry said.
Comfort Heroes says a tune-up is the best starting point to make sure your furnace is working as efficiently as possible.
“They’ll come in and check everything with the furnace to make sure its running optimally,” Gentry said. “Sometimes there are minor adjustments that can be made to the gas or the airflow or something is not running right electrically. Once we make those adjustments it can reduce the usage and make the furnace run more energy efficiently.”
He also says making sure your windows, doors and openings are properly weatherized will also help cut down on your fuel consumption.
MidAmerican Energy says if a customer is concerned about being able to pay their utility bill, give the company a call.
“We’ll make every reasonable accommodation we can,” Greenwood said.
There are also several nonprofit organizations that may have utility bill assistance available, including South Dakota Low Income Assistance Program (LIEAP) funds.